Canterbury Town Meeting: Voters back website upgrade, look ahead to school costs

Outgoing Select Board Chair Cheryl Gordon, center, retired from Canterbury town government this year. As first town clerk and then a member of the select board, Gordon has served the town for 45 consecutive years.

Outgoing Select Board Chair Cheryl Gordon, center, retired from Canterbury town government this year. As first town clerk and then a member of the select board, Gordon has served the town for 45 consecutive years. Catherine McLaughlin / Monitor staff

A 2.9% town operating budget increase and all warrant articles easily passed at the Canterbury Elementary School Friday night. 

A 2.9% town operating budget increase and all warrant articles easily passed at the Canterbury Elementary School Friday night.  Catherine McLaughlin / Monitor staff

By CATHERINE McLAUHLIN

Monitor staff

Published: 03-16-2024 10:07 AM

Some things about Town Meeting never change.

For one, Cheryl Gordon said, “the smallest amount of money takes the longest time.”

Gordon would know — Canterbury’s town meeting Friday night was her 45th, and final, as a municipal official there. She served as town clerk and tax collector from 1980-2011, when she left the post because she was elected to the select board. She retired from the board this year.

The annual meeting was never her favorite part of being a town official, but it was nevertheless bittersweet to realize it was her last.

“You come to the realization that you’re leaving it in good hands,” Gordon said, praising her town’s spirit of volunteerism. “It feels…. like it’s okay. It’s a good feeling.”

Gordon’s observation about Canterbury town meetings largely held true this year. None of the warrant articles faced sizeable opposition and no amendments were proposed. A majority of public testimony focused on the relatively smaller ticket warrant articles.

Voters were visibly pleased with — and even quietly cheered — the approval of $10,000 to update the town’s website, the faults of which administrative assistant Kathleen McKay said are “hard for me to stop talking about.”

A 2.9% increase in the town’s operating budget, including a 4% wage hike for town employees, passed with fewer than five votes in the negative among a crowd of about 175.

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Spending on new town equipment — from a lease-to-own on a new backhoe to a road grader, and from a new folder-inserter for the clerk’s office to an air system for the historical society that won’t overheat and set its records on fire — also easily passed.

A cemetery expansion project was fully funded, set to eventually add 464 more graves. In active use since 1850, Canterbury’s Maple Grove Cemetery is nearly full.

“It sounds like a lot,” Cemetery trustee Jan Cote said. “But we need it.”

Lower than initially projected, the tax impact of the full warrant is estimated to be an increase of $0.65, about $262 on a $400,000 home.

The relatively modest town tax increase will likely come alongside a larger school increase, Selectman Scott Doherty reported.

While the school’s operating budget year-over year saw a somewhat modest increase, the district actually significantly underspent its budget last year, not having to tax for “dozens” of vacant positions. Now that those positions have been filled, the Shaker Regional School District is expected to spend, and tax for, its full budget. Declines in state aid and a property reassessment in Belmont that slightly favored it in the two-town district’s funding formula also will play a role.

There was some debate about how steep the school rise would be, but, according to Doherty’s report the jump could be as high as $3.65 — almost a $1,500 increase on a $400,000 home. But, Doherty cautioned, that won’t be determined until the state sets the tax rate in the fall.